Sunday, November 14, 2010

Role of religion in a society and fault tolerance.

In this day, when people have started regarding science as their, blatant outspokenness is glorified - (whether it be for a better cause or by one woman mobile republics, that remaining of no consequence) and evangelical atheism is on the rise, religion has been relegated to the poor and lower - middle middle class of the society, it might be useful to understand some role of religion in shaping the society, that too from an engineering perspective. But let me first start with Machiavelli's views on how religion is useful in shaping the society.

Reading from the points Machiavelli makes in the chapter "On the religion of Rome" from the discourses on book one of the first ten books of Titus Livy, which are as follows: (it is necessary to make an attempt to generalize the points and not quote verbatim, since Machiavelli talks from an Italian/Roman perspective which many readers might not follow or find boring.)

1. After Romulus's reign in Rome was over, the Senate elected Numa Pompilius as his successor and Numa introduces religion into Rome to discipline civil society so as to put a fear of God into the people.

2. This facilitated easing of policy execution on the part of the leaders.

3. Citizens then stood in far greater fear of breaking an oath than a law, as though they had a greater fear of God's might than for man's.

4. Religion was useful in directing the armies, in animating the people, in keeping men good and in shaming the wicked.

5. Where there is religion, it is easy to introduce military discipline, but where there is no religion, the latter can be introduced only with great difficulty.

6. Without invoking God, intelligent people have many beneficial things which might not be directly acceptable to the people.

7. Thus, religion introduced by Numa into Rome was one of the primary causes of her prosperity, for that was the source of good laws, which in turn, bring good fortune, and from good fortune results all the good from the institutions of the land.

Along with the above, there is one major sector that religion has a role in, that is, designing the society according to the rules of fault tolerance. Now, what does fault tolerance have to do with it? Well, this is what fault tolerance means. (click) The theory here, is that while you can make an excellent system when you delete any mention of God, the sole responsibility of leading such a system depends on good rule by the ruling class and which over a long period of time, decays since the ruling class will invariably get corrupt with concentration of power in the hands of a cliche. Once the ruling class starts manifesting decay, and licentiousness, the society will start crumbling, for there is nothing to fall back onto (Remember the Sanskrit saying, 'yatha raja, tatha praja' really becomes true in this case, since there is no better ideal available for the people to follow. In case of a pre-existing religion, at least some people will try to emulate the Gods of the religion, and rise above their rulers). This is where fault tolerance comes into play, that the system keeps on running at sub-optimal conditions even when the key dominoes of the system have been withdrawn. This is where Machiavelli too realizes the importance of this concept, but of course, he doesn't call it by this name. As per Machiavelli, welfare of a republic or kingdom lies not in ruling it wisely while the ruler lasts, but in organizing it in such a way that the state endures after he has passed away. And the best effect of religion is here.

The obvious corollaries (my points) that emerge from such a religion would be that -
1) The control nodes of such a religion should rest solely within the state. If the control nodes exist outside, they can lead to external manipulation of a people.

2) The structure needs to be kept decentralized with checks and balances on the powers of each control node, otherwise we have to endure with a parallel power centre apart from the Central Government in the same state.

3) Towards the above end, the religion should be divided into different philosophical schools to not only cater to people of different tastes, but also so that there is constant competition between each school, something that would help each school of thought better itself and its followers. Yet, there should be a common meeting ground of each school rooted in Dharma.

4) The end goal of such a religion should be to make people do good during the existence of a good state, even after the good state has passed, and create a legend that enables the people to resurrect the same state, or resist an imperial power.

As usual, followers are invited to add more to this post.

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